Gillette has not cut ties with Russia, even as the country’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted other large firms to halt or scale back business operations there.
The Boston-based shaving giant has a manufacturing facility in St. Petersburg where it makes more than 70 products, from disposable razors and double-edge blades to packaging. The plant accounts for nearly three quarters of the shaving product market in Russia.
Last week, Gillette’s parent company, Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, said it halted all “new capital investments” in Russia, as well as advertising and promotional activity. The conglomerate — which owns consumer goods brands such as Tide, Swiffer, and Crest — said it is “significantly reducing” its Russian production to “basic health, hygiene and personal care items needed by the many Russian families.”
It is not clear how Gillette products will be affected, but P&G spokesperson Kara Buckley said the firm’s grooming segment, which includes Gillette and Venus, would be “highly streamlined.”
Many P&G brands, from those that sell razors to deodorant to tampons, could fall under the “basic health, hygiene, and personal care” category. P&G has a Russian manufacturing facility in Novomoskovsk, where it makes fabric, home, and baby products for brands including Tide and Pampers.
In the last month, corporations from McDonald’s to Starbucks to Airbnb have halted their operations in Russia.
Leveraging the Gillette brand name to put pressure on Russia would have been effective, said John Guilfoil, member of a Massachusetts-based public relations firm who teaches at Northeastern University. But ceasing operations might not be so easy, he said, especially for a business that is intertwined with the global economy and provides essential items.
“They have to balance between supporting sanctions, and overall a message of support... but their products may be responsible for health and wellness of the average Russian,” said Guilfoil. “To flip a switch may very well be impossible and do a lot of harm.”
London-based Unilever, which sells Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise, said last week that it would stop importing and exporting products with Russia. The company added that it would not advertise, “invest any further capital,” or profit from its business there as a result of the Ukrainian invasion.
But like P&G, Unilever said it plans to continue supplying “everyday essential food and hygiene products made in Russia to people in the country.”
Gillette’s St. Petersburg manufacturing plant makes more than 185.6 million products a year, which are exported to more than 50 counties. Unlike Unilever, P&G did not comment on whether it would halt Russian imports and exports.
“The vast majority of the products we make in Russia are sold in Russia,” another P&G spokesperson wrote in an e-mail. “For Gillette, those are lower-cost double-edge blades and basic disposable razors.”
It isn’t clear how — or whether — P&G’s actions will affect Gillette in Russia, but Guilfoil said halting sales would send an “extraordinary message to the average Russian that something is wrong.”
Through its Gillette and Venus brands, P&G controls more than 60 percent of the global razor market.
“Certainly, it is expensive and costly to cut yourself off from one of the largest countries in the world,” he said. “[But] history shows us that there is a tangible, corporate social responsibly benefit to doing these things.”
Whether Gillette’s operations in Russia spark backlash from consumers in other countries depends on how closely the company’s statement is scrutinized by customers, he said.
“As of right now, P&G has done enough to make the right lists,” he said.
And “people associate the Gillette name with Boston” — not Russia — “mainly because of the football stadium,” Guilfoil added.